Telling Our Daughters to Play #LikeAGirl Isn't Helping Them -- or Our Sons

Always #LikeAGirl campaign

An inspirational video from the company Always has been circulating around the Internet -- and for good reason. The Always #LikeAGirl campaign not only aims to boost young girls' confidence, but it also prove that girls can, in fact, play sports. And, as much as I agree with lighting the inspirational torch for future generations, I think pushing our daughters to play "like a girl" can send the wrong message.

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Now, before you try to come for me with virtual nails to pin me to the cross, hear me out. I do like the Always #LikeAGirl campaign video, as it features young ladies kicking ass in their sport of choice. And with an estimated seven out of 10 girls quitting sports because they don't feel they belong, if this helps inspire one child to continue, we're already winning.

As great as this video is, I really wish we would stop pushing the language of doing things "like a girl," as it re-promotes branding we're trying to move away from. Don't get me wrong, there are badass women who are breaking down barriers and proving to the world that girls can dominate in "male" sports. But, perhaps the time has come to start letting our skills do the talking, instead of trying to reclaim phrases meant to downgrade our abilities, for the sake of proving we're just as good as anyone else.

And, if people can't deal, that's not our fault.

I guess I have my dad to thank (or blame, if you believe my mindset is off) for how I think. Growing up, he encouraged me to get involved and stay active with things that were fun and made me happy. But rather than take the "traditional" route -- which, for girls, normally involves a pink tutu or gymnastics outfit -- I spent my time learning martial arts.

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Never once did he, or anyone else in my family, instill in me to play "like a girl." If anything, they removed that oh-so-common phrase used to belittle a person's physical aptitude from my existence.

Was I ever reminded by people -- including young boys on my team -- that I had a vagina and, therefore, was different? Of course it happened. Thankfully, I was able to tune out much of the sexist comments I heard (I'm not saying I was bulletproof, but I found it easier to let things bounce off me) because my dad always pushed for me to be the best version of myself -- and not focus on the fact that I am a girl.

"Who gives a s**t if you're the only girl," my pops always used to say. (Cursing and sarcasm were kind of his second and third languages that, oddly enough, came in handy during motivational speeches.) "You know how strong you are and what you're capable of doing. If people have a problem with that, because you're a girl, shut them up with your win."

(Yeah, we were competitive in my house.)

My dad's words, and his push for me to think of myself as a competitor -- and not just a female competitor -- really helped to shape how I view the world. Do I ever pride myself on doing things that some folks in society don't expect a woman to do? You betcha, but it doesn't define me.

Even today, when I head into my MMA training center on a weekly basis, there's a level of respect all my teammates have for each other. There's no "you hit hard for a girl" or anything. When I'm there, I'm just Tanvier -- or "Happy Feet." (That's my fighting name, though I have no plans to professionally step inside an octagon.) Those few who have concerns sparring or rolling (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) with a woman are typically newcomers who fail to understand that the only thing we recognize is hard work and dedication.

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Tanvier Peart MMA

Hopefully, our society will get to a point where girls' playing sports won't be a huge deal. I want my young sons to recognize the inner athlete inside all of their teammates, regardless of the gender of their teammates. 

Young ladies are victorious at sports, and don't have to play "like a girl" to prove their worthiness.

 

 

Images via Always/YouTube; Tanvier Peart

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